Marcus Smart is like Marmite. You either love him or hate him. But the Boston Celtics guard is becoming a surprise star of the NBA play-offs.

Smart isn’t a flashy scorer, a gifted dribbler, or bona fide superstar capable of taking over a big game and leading a franchise to glory.

But he has grit, a win-at-all-costs mentality, and he is a pest, who gets under your skin, puts his body on the line, and energises his team-mates.

In Boston’s Game 2 win over the reigning champion Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, he also exploded for 16 fourth-quarter points as the undermanned, underdog Celtics took control of the series.

Team-mate Kemba Walker, who started slow before icing the game in crunch time, said afterwards: "I ain't ever played with nobody like Smart. I ain't never met nobody like Smart.

Marcus Smart is proving to be a huge player for the Boston Celtics

“Anybody that watches him play, knows him, has ever played with him, knows there's nobody like Smart. Any time we're going to war I'll take him on my team every day of the week.”

Celtics fans love the 26-year-old, whose aggressive defence and ability to force turnovers has become so essential in Boston’s unlikely charge through the post-season.

But Raptors fans hate him - and gave him dogs abuse on social media for a blatant piece of mischief in the third quarter.

As the Raptors pushed the ball forward on a fast break, Smart intentionally ran into Toronto’s Pascal Siakam before hitting the deck theatrically to try to draw a foul.

Smart played a vital role in helping the Celtics beat the Raptors in the first two games of the Conference Semi-finals

It fooled the refs but not Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who challenged the call on the floor and saw it overturned.

Love him or hate him though, Smart is becoming a big factor in this Eastern Conference semifinal, and has promised there is more to come.

Smart said: “We have to continue to play desperate. Even though we're up, we have to play like we're down. We have to play games to win, not to lose.

“A lot of teams at this point, they play not to lose instead of just being who they are. For us, that's getting up into guys, playing great defence, and moving the ball on the offensive end.”

The Celtics have won all of their six play-off games so far, even though All-Star forward Gordon Hayward is currently out with an ankle sprain.

Smart's aggressive approach has divided fans who watch the NBA

It hasn’t mattered - and while stellar play from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown has been a big part of that, so has Smart.

After going 2-for15 on three pointers against the Philadelphia 76ers in the previous round, Smart is suddenly on fire from beyond the arc.

Over the first few minutes of the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 102-99 win, he hit five in a row to help erase Toronto’s lead, finishing 6-for11. He is now 11-for-20 for the series.

Smart has become the heart and soul of this team. One of several players to flourish since flawed superstar Kyrie Irving, and all his accompanying negativity, left the Celtics.

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It was supposed to be Irving, a former running-mate of LeBron James on the championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers, leading Boston to victories like these.

Instead it’s a guy with half the talent and twice the heart.

Two more wins and the Celtics will be back in the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in four years. In no small part down to Marcus Smart.